Monday, March 25, 2013

March --- The Annuciation -- Notre Dame in North Omaha

Ever since our Fr. Frederic Schindler died, nearly 15 years ago now, I was assigned to be the confessor for the Notre Dame Sisters in North Omaha. Fr. Frederic fulfilled that position for many years.This community of sisters is founded directly from Czechoslovakia.Some of the sisters there still speak the language. A good number of them hail from the areas of Nebraska of that descent.

I must admit that it has been a very good experience for me and I have benefited much from this assignment. Maybe I have benefited even more than the sisters have. These sisters do incredible work among people where humans with the greatest of needs are crying out to be heard.

While I have been there these years, the sisters have opened up a good portion of their buildings to the elderly-- this part of the their institution is named Seven Oaks. My own mother lived there for the last few months of her life. Actually, my mother died there on a Saturday -- Dec. 11, 2004. My mother's passing at this place makes it even more special.

As I have mentioned in a previous blog, I use the little monthly missal: Living With Christ. Besides this missal being the perfect way, for me at least, to keep up with the daily readings, its art work helps me enormously with lectio divina.

I was a bit taken back a few months ago when I saw a large print of the painting that was featured on the front cover of Living With Christ. It was on the front cover of the November issue of 2012. And on the wall just before entering the chapel there it was at Notre Dame. Here it is below. The painter is Afro-American -- Henry Ossawa Tanner.

I must admit that this is the first time that I have really seen this painting, but I was immediately attracted to it. Why? This a Mary who is very natural and ordinary. There is nothing unreal about her. The Angel Gabriel is presented as brilliant light. There is no human form here, except if one wants to say that the light is like a pillar about 6 feet tall. This I am attracted to, as well! It allows the viewer to give the Angel Gabriel form.

The other idea that really struck me was that I found this print of the Annuciation at Notre Dame. That is not insignificant. It is a painting of an ordinary Mary -- an ordinary woman -- accepting the message of the Lord. This painting placed in front of the chapel at Notre Dame needed no explanation. Here is a community of women doing what the painting represents. And furthermore the painter was created by an Afro-American. No more words are really necessary.

Below is a close up of Mary. Notice the detail in the blankets on the bed and the robe Mary is wearing. You will have to use the horizontal arrow to move the painting back and forth and the vertical arrow to move it up and down. But it is worth viewing and thinking about. Today is March 25. Had it not been Holy Week, we would have celebrated the feast of the Annuciation. And also today was Fr. Frederic's birthday!

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